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Marshall still troubled by hip, but Bears able to deal with it

Updated: August 27, 2013 10:22PM



Concerns about receiver Brandon Marshall saying he still is figuring out his role in coach Marc Trestman’s offense mean nothing when he’s not on the field. Of course, there’s a role for him: He’s the Bears’ best receiver. It just needs to be fine-tuned by him being on the field.

Marshall’s hip surgery in January slowed that process during the offseason and in camp. And it still is having an effect with the Bears’ regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals around the corner.

‘‘I’m just trying to get healthy for Week 1,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘So you’ve got to have a game plan coming off surgery — a third hip surgery. So, yeah, I’m not where I want to be right now. It’s a little frustrating.’’

Last season, losing Marshall for any amount of time would have been apocalyptic for the Bears, considering he accounted for 46 percent of their receiving yards. But with Trestman in charge, the Bears are better equipped to do well should Marshall miss time.

Not only is the entire offense different, but it helps that tight end Martellus Bennett was signed as a free agent, that second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery has earned quarterback Jay Cutler’s confidence and that running back Matt Forte will be the centerpiece. It might have been only the first half of a preseason game against the lowly Oakland Raiders, but the Bears showed their offense can work and score even if Marshall is struggling, as seen in his drops.

But Marshall still matters — a lot. He might be learning his part, but Trestman will tell you he’ll be a big component.

‘‘If [Marshall] plays every week, he’s going to have a lot of catches and certainly be instrumental in the success of our offense and, ultimately, the success of our football team,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘I don’t see that changing.’’

The Bears might want to spread the ball around, but there will be more balls to go around if the offense finds consistency, gets more first downs and has longer possessions. That wasn’t the case last season, when Marshall set franchise records with 118 receptions and 1,508 receiving yards.

History also shows Trestman knows how to use productive receivers. When he was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator, Jerry Rice had 122 catches, 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1995 with Elvis Grbac getting five starts. A 40-year-old Rice had 92 catches and 1,211 yards in 2002 — better numbers than in his previous five seasons — when Trestman orchestrated the Oakland Raiders’ offense.

So, of course, missing a top-tier receiver such as Marshall is a situation the Bears don’t want. The notion the Bears are rushing him back also is far-fetched. The Bears rested him during organized team activities, gave him days off during camp and sat him during their first preseason game. The issue is that Marshall feels behind on his conditioning, and the Bears already are game-planning for the Bengals.

‘‘I know this: Brandon is working his tail off to try to get himself ready,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He feels a sense of urgency because the season is 10 days away. . . . I know he’s trying to push himself through. I know he’s doing everything he can to try and get himself ready.’’

As Marshall said, ‘‘It’s just getting a feel for it and having more experience in the offense.’’

‘‘It’s just a matter of him getting out there and pushing his hip through things when it gets tight a little bit,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘I think once we start getting into a routine in game week and we shorten some of these reps, we’ll really figure out exactly what routes we want him on and where we want him on the field.’’

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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